The hiring comes nearly seven weeks after the firing of Bob Hartley, with the franchise introducing Gulutzan on Friday and subsequently filling the last coaching job in the National Hockey League.
The 44-year-old is coming off a three-season stint as the assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks, plus he served as the head coach of the Dallas Stars from 2011 to 2013. He was 64-57-9 over the course of two seasons, although his team failed to make the playoffs.
Prior to that, Gulutzan coached the Texas Stars in the AHL from 2009 to 2011. He also coached the Flames’ ECHL affiliate in Las Vegas for six seasons.
“I started back here in this organization,” he said on Friday. “When Darryl [Sutter] was running it I was in Las Vegas and it was one of the first calls I made, was to try to get an affiliation. I was there through that ‘04 run right behind the Flames…but I was in Las Vegas. I watched [Mark Giordano] and [Deryk Engelland] and [Dennis Wideman] at rookie development camp here, all as free agents.”
Many have criticized the Flames for taking so long in making the coaching decision, but they wanted to be sure. The franchise put him through the paces and sought insight far and wide, contacting everyone from Jamie Benn and the Sedin twins to Mike Babcock and John Tortorella. In the end, Calgary general manager Brad Treliving seemed satisfied.
“What kept coming back to me was the person. They’d say, ‘I’d trust him with my kids,’ and that’s a real starting point for me,” said Treliving. “The more time I spent with him the more clear it was he’s a perfect fit for us and vice versa. This guy was impressive. He’s as smart as anyone I’ve been around.”
The Flames will be counting on that personality and those smarts to propel the team forward. Gulutzan will continue to push the club along the puck possession path, something Hartley started, and he’ll work to activate the defence.
The current plan is for Gulutzan to meet with club leaders like Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. Calgary will also look to hire another assistant coach to work with Martin Gelinas, with a focus on special teams.